NCTA Professional Standards and Guidelines: Guidelines


The Guidelines noted here are listed as procedural steps rather than detailed instructions, e.g., "Ensure accurate timing of test " rather than "Keep time using [specific] method." Although they parallel content from many test manuals, they are not totally reflective of these instructions. They are generic enough to conform to requirements of all test programs, referring to the manual ("according to program requirements") where compliance with the Guideline is defined by adherence to the test company's stated procedure. These specific Guidelines may be particularly helpful for newer testing staff who are in the process of learning test administration procedures or for individuals and institutions setting up new test centers.

A. Paper-Based Tests (PBT)

  1. Before the test, the TOM and/or staff
    1. Schedule an adequate number of trained staff, per program requirements, and have backup available, if possible.
    2. Perform check of testing facilities and equipment for operating conditions and security.
    3. Check rest rooms to be sure they are secure.
    4. Receive and/or count material; reconcile discrepancies.
    5. Divide material per room assignments.
    6. Store materials securely.
    7. Prepare staff for administrations with thorough review of manual or instructor guidelines.
    8. Ensure that all necessary equipment is in proper working order.
    9. Make appropriate campus contacts, such as calling the campus security office or reserving rooms through a designated office.
    10. Ensure proper reporting address on national exam roster; reconcile errors.
    11. For institutional tests, communicate necessary information to examinees, such as date, time, and location of test as well as items to bring to the test, if needed.
    12. Post directional signs and room assignments on test day.
  2. To facilitate the admitting process, test day staff
    1. Check for valid, current photo identification and admit examinees according to program requirements or institutional specifications.
    2. For classroom exams, verify student's enrollment and eligibility to take the test, if necessary.
    3. Contact test company or instructor to resolve discrepancies.
    4. Assign seats randomly according to program guidelines.
  3. To ensure the best possible testing conditions during the administration and to ensure standardization of the exam, test day supervisor and staff
    1. Make general housekeeping announcements (location of rest rooms, etc.).
    2. Actively proctor test and ensure that all staff get to take short breaks to maintain alertness but never leave a room unsupervised.
    3. Maintain physical security of materials and watch exits, especially during break times. Recheck ID after breaks, according to test or institutional guidelines.
    4. Observe examinees without being intrusive.
    5. Handle irregularities and potential security breaches according to program or university policies.
    6. Complete seating charts and other forms, according to program requirements.
    7. Distribute and collect materials individually and reconcile counts at all times.
    8. Respond to examinee questions about testing procedure and provide information about completing answer sheets and forms. Never discuss or respond to questions from examinees about exam content.
    9. Read instructions clearly and verbatim. Answer examinee questions accurately.
    10. Ensure accurate timing of test.
    11. Call test company or instructor immediately, if necessary, to resolve questionable situations.
  4. After the test, the TOM and/or test day staff
    1. Follow end-of-test procedures from instructor or test company.
    2. Count and secure materials before dismissing examinees.
    3. Prepare reports and forms. Submit information or paperwork for staff/institutional payment.
    4. Arrange pickup/shipping, as necessary (according to test company specifications and local system).
    5. Retain test administration documents (i.e. rosters, seating charts, vouchers, reports, etc.) for at least one year unless otherwise specified by test company.
    6. Follow up on staff payment from test companies, if it is not received within the expected timeframe.
    7. Track revenue that comes to the institution and ensure that payment is received.
    8. Handle staff questions and problems. Utilize problems that occur, solutions used, and lessons learned to train staff on how to handle future test administrations and irregularities.

B. Computer-Based Tests (CBT)

To conduct CBT in a high quality standardized setting, always follow the methods and activities as shown in the procedural manuals for the specific test. Strive to ensure the best possible testing conditions are provided while maintaining standardized procedures. Below are best practices for efficient CBT administrations.

  1. Facilities
    1. Ensure physical space meets program specifications.
    2. Regularly check testing facilities and equipment for operating condition and security.
    3. Restrict test room access to examinees and approved testing staff.
    4. Provide appropriate and secure storage for examinee belongings, ensuring that examinees do not have access to their belongings while testing.
  2. Staff
    1. Ensure appropriate training and certification for staff, according to program guidelines.
    2. Renew certification status as needed.
    3. Assign usernames and passwords to staff, according to program requirements.
    4. Guard all usernames, passwords, and codes, keeping them confidential. Staff members should not share usernames and passwords with examinees or anyone else.
    5. Schedule an adequate number of trained staff per program requirements.
    6. Maintain lines of communication with internal and external technical and operational support.
  3. Equipment – Hardware/Software
    1. Maintain hardware and software according to program guidelines.
    2. Ensure all equipment is in working order.
    3. Appropriately assign administrative computer work station and examinee work stations.
    4. Prepare and test video, audio, imaging, biometric, and other systems.
    5. Record test sessions with video or audio equipment, if required, according to program guidelines and/or test center policy.
    6. Ensure that appropriate IT support is in place to assist with problems that interfere with test delivery.
  4. Supplies and Materials
    1. Ensure availability of required forms, documents, and supplies, e.g., pencils, pens, earplugs, scratch paper, etc.
    2. Complete required forms.
    3. Prepare information and documents for issuance to examinees.
  5. Test Administration Procedures
    1. Perform examinee check-in functions based on program requirements.
    2. Collect required authorizations, vouchers, or other documents.
    3. Provide general and specific program instructions to each examinee.
    4. Respond to questions and problems regarding procedures and directions only. Never discuss or respond to questions from examinees about examination content.
    5. Distribute ancillary materials, e.g., scratch paper, writing utensils, calculators, etc.
    6. Maintain security of the examination, software, and equipment by monitoring examinees through glass viewing window, on video monitors, or by proctoring, according to program requirements.
    7. Monitor scheduled and unscheduled examinee breaks. Recheck examinee IDs or perform other check-in procedures after breaks, as specified by program requirements.
    8. Ensure accurate timing according to specific program or institutional requirements. Record testing time for each examinee, if required.
    9. Manage, document, and report irregularities when they occur.
    10. Contact program technical support, as needed, to resolve system problems.
  6. Closing/Ending Test Session
    1. Collect and verify materials and supplies.
    2. Perform examinee-related check-out procedures according to program or institutional guidelines.
    3. Ensure confidentiality of exam results.
    4. Complete forms and return materials according to program or institutional specifics.
    5. Perform end-of-day procedures according to program, institutional, and test center guidelines.


The NCTA Standards and Guidelines are intended to encourage testing professionals to align their procedures with best practices. If NCTA members need more information and guidance, they should take advantage of the online and interactive resources of the organization to access the expertise of other members. Each office is unique, but following the NCTA Standards and Guidelines brings excellence to the test center and professional satisfaction to the testing staff.

Historical Note: Standards and Guidelines for test centers were first written by the Midwest Professional Association of College Testing Personnel (MPACT) Professional Development Committee as an outgrowth of discussions about test center certification. The committee agreed that standards needed to be developed before certification could be considered. Test company and test center staff representing MPACT, the SouthEastern Testing Association (SETA), and the Texas Association of Collegiate Testing Personnel (TACTP) worked together to develop the standards. When MPACT and other regional organizations became the National College Testing Association (NCTA) in Spring 2000, the Standards and Guidelines were adopted as official policy of the organization.